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Hidden Like Anne Frank
Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins
Published by Arthur A Levine, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy
Hidden Like Anne Frank is a collection of 14 stories collected by Prins and Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins. The chapters each read like memoirs; they’re all presented in first person, in the voices of the Dutch-Jewish survivors of the war. The stories present a range of experiences — some are about children as young as 3, while others are the experiences of older children — although there are a number of factors that they have in common (the idea of “sperre,” the temporary prison in The Hollandsche Schouwburg). The most significant commonality is that these are all stories of survivors, and so the stories include information beyond what we often think of as “the end” of the story.
With three stars, this is an emotional and powerful book. With the first person narration (captured by Prins and Steenhuis and preserved in Watkins’s translation), it feels personal and hugely significant; each story is gripping and powerfully emotional. There are moments of incredible suspense, moments of great horror in these stories; they feel immediate and are engrossing. When you also consider the photographs, the effect is even stronger. This book allows history to truly come to life.
Because all fourteen chapters are concerned with survivors, they explore what happened after the war: the heartbreak and challenges that these people — still children, really — faced. Broken families, loss of homes, despairing parents: survival was not the end of their experience, and not all accounts include that perspective in the telling. This illustrates, in some small way, the full weight of history, the long-reaching significance of the holocaust. Incorporating moments from “life after the war” which allows this book to speak to people today, who are part of a war that we don’t often talk about, or even remember on a daily basis.
I do read this as a strong (and important) title…but I wonder about its chances at the table. This is a very strong year for nonfiction. (We’ve said it before! We will probably say it again!) John Brown and the Romanovs have some serious support (popular support, not official, RealPrintz support…but still: support!) behind them and both are sophisticated in their approach to history, using one particular perspective to serve as a lens for larger areas, issues, and ideas. And on a sentence-by-sentence writing level, Brown Girl Dreaming and How I Discovered Poetry will probably outshine Hidden. As a matter of fact, I could see this aligning with Beyond Magenta — both in approach and effect. The inclusion of individual voices make these two books come to life and allow them to bring humanity and personality to big ideas. But at the table, in Printz discussion, the cummulative effects of the voices may not take these titles to the final five.
Filed under: Nonfiction
About Sarah Couri
Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.
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